I recently received an email response from someone kind enough to read my most recent blog posts. The response was honest and thoughtful and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I responded by email and was given permission to post my response here. The quotes are the original email remarks.
I am a little more skeptical though. Over the past 2000 years, ‘classical education’ (is there such a thing?) has delivered the greatest minds known to us; the scientists, the poets, the musicians, the architects, engineers, linguists and, above all, the philosophers.
I`m not convinced that the Industrial model of education that we have today IS the type of education that has existed over the past 2000 years. It has been argued that our current system emerged as a way to mass educate students to participate in an industrial society. Before that education consisted of more of an apprenticeship model. This learning happened in a social context that gave the content real world relevance. I`m not an expert on what it was like to be an apprentice but I would guess that it involved a lot of conversation and working through problems with other people you trust and respect. I think that the power of these new internet tools and Personal Learning Networks is that they can allow us and our students to go out and find mentors andpeople we trust and learn with and from them. Sort of like a high tech apprenticeship-mentoring model.
Your comment makes me think of Einstein, who we hold up as one of the greatest minds of our time. He did not do well in our `Classical`schooling system and for most of his professional career worked through his ideas and thoughts in letters to colleagues. Think what he could have accomplished if he had had a blog 🙂
I fear is that we lack the rigour that produced the great Renaissance men; that technology is raising very clever young people, but also ones that lack the discipline, work ethic and insight to change the world we have created.
I share your concern that because project based learning and social learning is more complex and dynamic than more traditional classroom learning there is a danger of students being distracted and not learning about rigour. But if you start with the premise that PBL and social learning is real learning then I think our challenge is to introduce rigour into the process, not be put off by the fact that it is difficult to do. I see the MYP design cycle as being a useful way to start doing this.
Maybe there is a balance between these two polar views?
I think this is the key. In my experience in order for students to really engage in higher level explorations they first need to be taught the content and skills to build on. There will always be a place for direct instruction, but I don`t think we should just automatically default to this way of teaching. After reading Disrupting Class this year I have started using an online math program twice a week to give my students more autonomy in how they learn math in my class. I am still doing some direct instruction for the students that need it and I am doing regular checks for understanding, but I am really impressed with how many of my students are able to figure things out for themselves using the tools I have made available to them.
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